U.S. May Investigate Apple Over Antitrust Concerns

May 5, 2010 Updated: May 5, 2010

U.S. antitrust regulators are considering an investigation into Apple Inc.’s contract with third-party programmers, requiring them to use Apple programming tools to write applications for its popular iPhone, iPad, and iTouch devices, according to reports.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has not yet made a decision whether to probe Apple, according to an unnamed source interviewed by Reuters.

Apple has sold 1 million iPad tablet computers since its launch last month, along with more than 50 million units of its popular iPhone smartphones, and another 35 million iPod Touch devices worldwide.

Apple’s rivals have raised concerns over Apple’s latest software licensing policy, requiring developers to use its technology to write applications.

Recently, Apple and Adobe Systems Inc. have been mired in a public spat over Adobe’s Flash video and interactive application platform, which is currently a standard used on the Internet. Two weeks ago, Apple’s Steve Jobs went public in his criticism of Flash, saying that it is a battery hog, and reaffirmed that Apple would not utilize Flash in its devices, instead opting for the new HTML 5 platform.

Apple’s App Store has more than 200,000 applications.

Apple—the New Microsoft?

Apple’s emergence as the fastest-growing smartphone hardware and software maker has raised comparisons to Microsoft Corp., which faced its own long antitrust case dating back to the mid-1990s.

In the mid-1990s, The U.S. Justice Department and European regulators hit Microsoft with antitrust allegations that the company’s dominating market position over the desktop operating systems market allowed it to force consumers to use Microsoft’s applications for Web surfing and music playback.

Long touting itself as the “anti-Microsoft,” Apple nonetheless has been the target of competitors for its dominance over the MP3 player and smartphone market.